Two alumni earn NBNA awards

Photo of Javaris D. Polk and Taylor D. Washington

By Amanda E.H. Pritchard

Two University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing alumni are recipients of 2022 National Black Nurses Association Inc. awards that were presented at NBNA’s annual conference in Chicago in July 2022.

Javaris D. Polk, BSN, RN, CCRN (BSN 2019), is one of 16 named 2022 NBNA Under 40 award winners. Taylor D. Washington, MSN, RN (MSN 2021), received the 2022 NBNA Staff Nurse of the Year Award.

Polk is currently enrolled in Union University’s Nurse Anesthesia Program. He has been a member of NBNA since 2018.

“To be considered as an honoree for the NBNA Under 40 Award signifies the vow of selflessness that I chose to devote my life’s work to, to alleviate patient suffering is not only noble, but a nod of appreciation from those before me who made this profession possible,” Polk said.

Washington is a staff nurse with psychiatric and addiction patients in the Center for Psychiatric Medicine at UAB.

“I was ecstatic,” Washington said. “This award really made me feel appreciated and recognized for the work I love doing every day.”

A desire to end disparities

Initially drawn to nursing because of the intensive care patients need, Polk says his nursing skills strengthened when he worked in the ER. “This was the precursor to the pathway that I am undertaking currently,” said Polk. “I attribute the majority of my skills from the training I received in the emergency room.”

Polk hopes to help communities overcome health disparities is by being the change he wants to see.

“By becoming a nurse anesthetist in an underserved community hospital, I hope that shows others that they too can be a beacon of hope by becoming a direct reflection of the patients that they wish to serve. This allows me to embody change.”

Polk still applies today advice he received in nursing school at UAB.

“The best advice I received as a nursing student was to think critically, be open to new opportunities and become skilled enough at the craft where you could teach along the way,” he said.

Now having attained experience in the profession, Polk’s advice for prospective students is, “My advice mirrors those same sentiments as this has become a catalyst to the achievements I have made thus far.”

A voice for patients

Inspired by volunteering in hospice care with geriatric patients led Washington into the nursing profession.

“I loved spending time with geriatric patients and really became interested in the psychiatric aspect of how geriatric patients in hospice care cope with being in the nursing home,” she said. “This experience really opened my eyes to psychiatric nursing.”

Washington wants to bridge the gap of social injustice and health disparities by continuing to advocate for her patients.

“In my work, I’ll be a voice for my patients,” said Washington. “Being involved with my unit’s congress and decision-making for the well-being of patients on the unit is important. It is important to make sure staff is educated on diversity and awareness of the definition of disparity.”

Washington said the best advice she was given while in nursing school at UAB was, “to always appreciate, honor and protect your hard work. I also learned that things could change in a flash, and it is important to be able to adapt to those changes,” she said.

As for the advice she has to offer, Washington said, “My advice to nursing students is to never give up, be adaptable and always stand up for what you believe in.”

Incorporated in 1972, NBNA’s mission is “to serve as the voice of Black nurses and diverse populations ensuring equal access to professional development, promoting educational opportunities and improving health.” NBNA celebrated its 50th anniversary this year at the Chicago conference. The theme of this year’s conference was “Bridging the Gap of Social Injustice and Health Disparities through Excellence in Nursing, Practice, Education and Research.”

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